Colombia

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 16, 2016

 

Give thanks that campesino land struggle leaders of El Guayabo and Bella Union are now free pending trial.  Eric Payares, Santos Peña and Jhon Freddy have been in hiding because of false charges leveled against them by a large landowner Rodrigo Lopez Henao. Pray for Alvaro Garcia, who remains in jail, and his family.  Pray that the Holy one will soften Lopez Henao’s heart and bend it toward justice.  Pray also that the new peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC will be signed in early December, so that rural communities like El Guayabo and Bella Union, which have born the brunt of the Colombian civil war's violence, may at last find some sort of peace with justice.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  November 20, 2016
Erik Payares, Santos Peña and Jhon Fredy Ortega embrace their family in celebration outside the court in Barrancabermeja. (CPT/Caldwell Manners)
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.
Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.
Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1-4
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings. Psalm 17:1-2, 8-9

COLOMBIA: Women on the Frontlines of the Colombian Peace Movement

Last September, two graying fighters in the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict consented to an awkward handshake. Ernesto Londoño wrote in the New York Times that he watched Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko,” head negotiator for the FARC, shake hands “in stunned silence,” astonished at the diplomatic successes of Colombia’s four years of peace talks. On the evening of October 2nd, international observers reacted once again in stunned silence—this time, however, because the prospects for peace were thwarted by an entirely unexpected outcome. The “Yes” vote lost by less than 1% in a surprise to most observers, who predicted that the referendum would pass. Subsequent analyses have cast the vote as Colombia’s Brexit, an electoral coup carried out by a disaffected anti-establishment voting bloc. 

The “No” campaign, however, was anything but anti-establishment. Though Colombians whose territories have suffered the most direct violence overwhelmingly voted to support the accords, the country’s white and mestizo Andean centers of power, where urban violence has been on the wane, carried the “No.” This seeming paradox, in addition to being a tragedy, illuminates the fact that Colombia’s conflict is no longer—  if it ever was— a conflict between the state and the guerrilla as much as it is a conflict between elites and the popular sector. Chief among those who stand to lose if the hard-won peace accords are discarded—and chief among those who fought hardest for them to happen in the first place—are women.

Women peace activists played key roles in the Havana negotiations, both in the talks’ preparatory years and in their execution. Networks of women’s and feminist organizations like Ruta Pacífica (Peaceful Path), the Organización Femenina Popular (Popular Women’s Organization), and other members of the Movimiento Social de Mujeres Contra la Guerra (Social Movement of Women Against War) had been demanding a negotiated solution for two decades, softening the ground for the Havana talks. Once they were announced, women lost no time in advocating for civil society to have a place at the table, and organized several parallel events to amplify women’s voices. When civil society was initially excluded, women organized parallel summits and roundtables, gathering proposals to be delivered to Havana. They held “cortes de mujeres,” public hearings designed as spaces for crimes committed against women in wartime to be made visible. And they traveled the country and collected women’s testimonies of violence to be published in Colombia’s Truth and Memory Commission report, a key tool in any campaign for a peace with justice.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo and Bella Union leaders free after turning themselves in

CPTnet
1 November 2016
COLOMBIA El Guayabo and Bella Unión Leaders Free After Turning themselves in

BY CALDWELL MANNERS

Erik Payares, Santos Peña and Jhon Fredy Ortega embrace their family in celebration outside the court in Barrancabermeja. (CPT/Caldwell Manners)

After six months of avoiding arrest under false charges, three land struggle leaders from the communities of El Guayabo and Bella Unión have returned home.

On 25 October, Erik Payares, Jhon Fredy Ortega and Santos Peña turned themselves into the Barrancabermeja’s prosecutor's office to defend their innocence against charges of possession of weapons, personal injury and conspiracy to commit crime.  The judge dropped all but the last charge.  He also ruled against the need to imprison them since they were not a risk to the community and had demonstrated their intentions to fully cooperate with the remaining investigation.

Earlier this year, on 24 April, authorities raided the homes of the three leaders, and the home of currently imprisoned Bella Unión community leader, Alvaro Garcia. Charges against the four leaders relate to alleged shots fired in December 2014 during a confrontation with Rodrigo Lopez Henao’s armed security guards. Henao claims the communities, working with the guerillas, forcibly displaced his father in the early 1980s and demands that the courts recognize him as a victim. Under this presumption, local authorities have failed to respond to the security needs of the villagers despite Henao’s continual attacks against the villagers’ property and persons. They have filed over twenty complaints against him.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: ‘It was a very sad day’--the narrow defeat of the peace referendum

Photo by Marian DeCouto

On Monday, September 26, 2016, I flew from Canada back to Colombia more excited than usual. After four years of negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia had finally reached a deal, which they would officially ratify that very day. 

As I began boarding the plane I saw a cameraman from the CBC news, and my heart fluttered with expectation. Upon landing in Bogotá, I could feel the energy buzzing through the exceptionally long line at customs. I quickly ran downtown to catch the festivities in the main square. Although the official signing was taking place in Cartagena, a historic walled city on the Caribbean coast where Colombia gained its independence, there were tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital to watch the live feed on big screens set up in the square.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that overcame me (and the goosebumps!) as I watched a parade of diverse Colombians celebrating this historic day. My friend Carolina turned to me to tell me that I will tell my kids and grandkids about this day. I cried tears of joy when the FARC commander asked for forgiveness from all of the victims and when the president of Colombia declared that the 52-year war was finally over. It was a day filled with hope, and an excitement to continue to work for a just peace on the horizon.

COLOMBIA: Colombians reject peace deal. Why and what next?

 

A woman looks for her identification number on a chart at a local voting station in Barrancabermeja. (CPT/Caldwell Manners)

Nine days have passed since the 2 October referendum when 6,431,376 Colombians voted to reject the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). The slim win of the “No” vote, by a margin of 54,000, leaves the country in a highly polarized state.

On September 26 with the whole world watching, President Juan Manuel Santos quoted the national anthem, “The horrible night has ceased,” after signing the 297-page peace agreement with the FARC. The signing set at the historic city of Cartagena with heads of state and dignitaries from fifteen countries present was a symbolic and powerful move to sway a divided country to vote in favor of the agreement. In 2013, Santos proposed a referendum in hopes to seal the agreement with a public show of confidence. He promised a simple “Sí” or  “No” question—“Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and the construction of a stable and long-lasting peace?” The country would take on the responsibility to ratify the agreement. It didn’t work.

Prayers for Peacemakers 5 October 2016 Colombia

Prayers for Peacemakers 5 October 2016   Colombia 

Pray for those in living in Colombia's conflict zones: campesinos, indigenous peoples, displaced people and Afro-Colombians, most of whom voted overwhelmingly in favor for the peace referendum, which was defeated on Sunday.  Pray for Christian Peacemaker Teams-Colombia and their partners on the ground: human rights workers, peace activists, women’s rights activists, labor rights activists, etc.  They are heartbroken and their future is uncertain.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  October 2, 2016 
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Colombia
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
you brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; Psalms 66:10-11
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary  readings

COLOMBIA: In Colombia, the real work of peacebuilding begins now

Dopa petition
Edinson Garcia, president of the Community Action Committee of El Guayabo calls for the release of community member Alvaro Garcia at a demonstration in front of the court in Barrancabermeja on May 5, 2016. (CPT/Caldwell Manners) 

In Colombia, the real work of peacebuilding begins now



The peace agreement signed on August 24 in Colombia, which ends a 52-year-long conflict between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, marks an end of a violent era in Colombia’s history. Many Colombians are celebrating, and the nation’s president has declared, in a New York Times editorial, that there is now no war in the Western Hemisphere.

This is very good news. Yet as poor, rural Colombians know, the reality is much more complex, and the work of building a just and enduring peace is only beginning.

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 31, 2016 Colombia

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 31, 2016   Colombia

Creator of the universe, we rejoice with all our Colombian brothers and sisters who are celebrating the end of the Colombian civil war.  We praise you for the strength that you gave those who resisted the violence and degradation of humanity over the last decades. We honor the murdered martyrs who spoke out for justice and simply tried to do their jobs in the face of overwhelming corruption and inequality.  We know that the evils of the human heart have not been signed away in Havana. We ask that you bend the will of those in power toward justice and that you give peacemakers renewed strength for the journey that is to come.

 

*Epixel for Peacemakers September 4, 2016

Garzal and Nueva Esperanza communities
But if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring
     on it.

And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it  Jeremiah 18:8-9
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA: Christian Peacemaker Teams Celebrates, “Peace is Possible.”

 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them
be afraid. – John 14:27 

Today is the day.  The war with FARC-EP has ended.  Peace is possible.

On Thursday,  August 25th, The Colombian Government and FARC-EP announced that they reached a peace agreement. After over fifty years of armed conflict, they laid down their weapons in an indefinite cease-fire. Generations of Colombians that have known only war will now be given the opportunity to live in peace.    

Today, Christian Peacemaker Teams celebrates alongside our partners, who have worked so tirelessly for this day. These courageous women and men worked and dreamed of peace when there was no glimpse of it. This historic peace agreement was made possible by their tireless work.

We also recognize that in many ways the journey has just started. The peace agreement, momentous in its scale, will take years of work. It dares not only to end the war, but to change a culture of violence and dismantle structures of death. The task of agrarian reform and restorative justice are complicated tasks. Just these two points alone will take years of labor.

There are still challenges to overcome. We have seen a rise and re-organizing of paramilitaries in the region where we work. Furthermore, on 2 October, the country will vote in a “yes”/“no” referendum to ratify the peace agreements. At a national level, powerful people are already working to convince the people to vote against the popular referendum. It will be devastating for Colombia if the peace agreements do not pass.  These are forces rising to prevent a real peace from taking hold

However, we cannot be afraid.  So today, we celebrate. The war with FARC-EP has ended. Peace is possible.

 
 

COLOMBIA PRAYER REQUEST: Judge orders Alvaro Garcia's hearing for Monday 1 August 2016

The judge has scheduled a hearing for Alvaro Garcia's case on Monday August 1. Pray that the judge release Alvaro on house arrest while the investigation continues. Pray that there be justice and transparency in the courtroom and pray for wisdom as the lawyers  begin to build their defence to prove Alvaro's innocence.

Sign our petition to free Alvaro and stop the criminalization of Colombian campesino leaders and human rights defenders: http://bit.ly/2aHaGzx

‪#LibertadParaAlvaro‬ ‪#Guayabo4‬ ‪#humanrightsdefender‬